In an era of social media and quick fixes—where posturing is commonplace, the “good life” can seem virtually unattainable, and many of us are made to feel we have to cope with it all on our own—The Redeemed, a local men’s ministry, is striving to cultivate authenticity and provide community, support and resources to adult men of all ages and walks of life in an effort to help them thrive together.
Depression, insecurity, addiction and shame are all great at hiding. That’s particularly true for men, who—even in their supposedly more enlightened times—are expected to project an image of strength and suppress their emotions. In doing so, they are often discouraged from discussing their innermost thoughts, fears or anything causing them pain. Paul Amos, founder of The Redeemed, says that’s resulted in countless men who appear to have it all together on the outside but are struggling mightily beneath the surface. On top of that, they feel like they have to deal with it all on their own.
“I think the belief that they need to ‘bootstrap’ things,” he explains, “that they need to put on a façade, a face, a mask—that allows them to be seen as handling things well, and to not admit their vulnerability, not admit the places that they’ve failed or the places that they see themselves as needing help. That’s a big part of what hides in this community.” The Redeemed, however, encourages men to be open and honest with each other about their struggles, and in doing so, find the strength to overcome them—and gain a newfound sense of hope.
Paying it Forward
Amos says he’s experienced those personal struggles firsthand, but he also benefited from the support and insight of other men—both in Columbus and across the country—“who really invested in me and helped me kind of find God, find Jesus in my life, and reorient me toward doing things the right way … And it caused me to say, you know what, I want to give back to men who are going through different situations, who are going through crises of their own, in the way that I’ve benefited from the wonderful men who invested in me and helped me through my own personal situation.” Amos first began conceiving The Redeemed in fall 2019 as a welcoming, non-judgmental place where men could talk plainly and honestly about their struggles and fears, drawing strength from the knowledge that they’re not alone.
“When you feel like you can really share what’s going on in your mind, even if it seems a little bit crazy, then you realize, ‘The guy across the table has experienced some of the same things I’m going through,’” says Nathan Dewberry, whom Amos brought on as director of The Redeemed in the summer of 2022.
“There is just a level of peace that comes when you go, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one.’ There is a certain healing that comes that only happens in community—and unfortunately, so many people, especially men, don’t really know that.” And while The Redeemed certainly aims to help men dealing with significant addiction or mental health issues—and can connect them with clinical resources for therapy or treatment—Dewberry says they don’t need to be in a full-blown crisis situation to benefit from the ministry’s community and understanding. “Sometimes it takes that kind of crisis to be vulnerable,” he agrees, “but we want men to realize they’re not alone in any of it—‘I’m not the only one dealing with a blended family.’ ‘I’m not the only one dealing with depression.’ I think the reality is we all want to be known, and we all want to be connected with somebody.”
Expanding the Idea of Community
Unfortunately, Amos’s best-laid plans for in-person groups were quickly derailed by the onset of the COVID epidemic. But with the help of longtime friend Tracy Immelman, founder of Pink Pebble Marketing, The Redeemed’s virtual community was up and running on social media in February 2020. The ministry soon launched its website, TheRedeemed.com, and its podcast series started in July, with the Rev. Dr. Shane Green, senior minister at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, as the first guest.
Once COVID subsided and Amos hired Dewberry, who brought experience in a number of different types of ministries, The Redeemed began to grow rapidly into the kind of effort Amos originally envisioned. The ministry’s small weekly in-person and online groups began right after Dewberry came on as director, and this past September it added “huddles,” larger groups that meet as needed for men who might not be ready to commit to a regular schedule. “It can be a first step for someone,” Dewberry says. “We’ve had someone who came to our very first huddle, and then immediately after the huddle, he went to a small group. He felt safe, he felt like the community was something he wanted to be part of.”
Of course, The Redeemed has continued to grow its online presence as well. The podcasts, which went from monthly to weekly, now feature a wide range of guests—ministers, businessmen and even athletes—from the Columbus area and around the Southeast, discussing everything from addiction and life tragedies to marriage, fatherhood and leadership. The website now includes devotionals, as well as blog posts on topics such as spiritual discipline, designed to help men find fulfillment and “stay on track” amidst the stresses and temptations of modern life. And the early investment The Redeemed put into that virtual community—even if only out of necessity—has helped it dramatically expand its geographical reach. The website features testimonials from men all over the country and beyond, and the ministry has connected with men as far away as Canada and Brazil.
“We’re hopeful we can help men realize they can be in community without being in-person,” he says. “Our community, thanks to Zoom and a generation of people growing up with social media and community online, allows us to really get to know people in a way that I think our parents’ generation would not have gotten to known each other. It’s evolved into something that, we hope, is making a major impact on people’s lives.”
Bringing Men Together
Of all the projects that The Redeemed has undertaken, though, its biggest—and most high-profile—was of the good old-fashioned in-person variety. The Restored event held last August at the Bibb Mill Event Center featured Heisman Trophy winner and Christian speaker Tim Tebow as its special guest, attracting an audience of nearly 600 men from around the country. A recent Redeemed podcast featured testimonials from men who cited the event specifically as having inspired meaningful change in their lives. The date for the 2024 event has already been set—August 24—and Amos says they hope to expand it from an evening speaking engagement into an all-day conference. While the event has attracted widespread attention, he adds, the decision to hold it in Columbus was very intentional. “We want to bring things to this community that it wouldn’t have otherwise,” he explains. “Much like the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum brought speakers to our community, we want to bring Christian speakers to our community who can speak to the heart of men and get them to open up in ways that maybe they haven’t before.”
Regardless of the medium—conferences, in-person groups, podcasts, even camping trips—Amos says that The Redeemed’s message will stay the same: You are not alone, there is hope and we’ll help you find it. “No matter where you are in life, no matter how successful you’ve been, we all suffer through difficulties, and we’ve all suffered through places of failure in our faith, of failure in our family, of failure in our business, of failure in our health,” Amos says.
“There are so many different categories of places that men can begin to feel like failures, and I believe the enemy wants us more than anything to feel that—he wants us to find places where we succumb to his power … anything that can make us feel a sense of shame and guilt that is crippling to our ability to move forward.
“So we want to do what we can to help men step out of that, to step into God’s love, to step into a place of understanding that they are God’s children, and that they are redeemed. That their choices are being recovered by God and redeemed by God. Through His grace and the cross, we are in a very different situation than we could’ve ever bought on our own.”